If you've ever been in a car accident, you likely sustained some type of injury.
Even the most insignificant fender benders can cause some type of damage to your body.
Luckily, most of them aren't serious, but the damage has still been done.
Sometimes you think you've escaped without injury, but hours, or even days later you start developing symptoms that you haven't noticed up until that point.
That's why it's always important to seek medical attention after an accident, no matter how you feel.
When you're involved in an accident, your endorphins and the flow of adrenaline can prevent you from feeling any pain immediately after the fact.
Serious injuries can go undetected until the body has had a chance to return to its normal state.
One of the most common injuries you can sustain during your accident, that can also go unnoticed, is whiplash.
Whiplash frequently occurs in car accidents because of the sudden impact that accompanies them.
Most people think whiplash only affects your neck.
It does affect your neck, but it can also affect you in many more ways.
In the article below we will learn about whiplash, and how it affects your body.
What Is Whiplash?
Whiplash is the sudden movement of someone's head backward and then forward suddenly, and with great force.
Whiplash happens commonly after a rear-end collision or other vehicle accidents.
They can also be a result of a sports injury, physical abuse, amusement park rides, diving accidents, or shaken baby syndrome.
Whiplash occurs when the soft tissues of your neck extend beyond their normal range of motion — the soft tissues of your neck include the muscles and ligaments.
As mentioned above, your symptoms might not appear right away.
You should pay close attention to any physical changes in the days and weeks following an accident, vehicle or otherwise.
Whiplash is typically a mild condition that shouldn't be cause for much concern.
However, if severe enough, it can cause long-term pain and discomfort.
How Does Whiplash Occur?
Whiplash occurs when the muscles and ligaments in your neck suffer a strain due to the sudden movement of your neck backward and then forward.
That's why whiplash is also referred to as neck strains.
The sudden movement can cause your necks tendons and ligaments to stretch and tear, resulting in whiplash.
Some more common accidents that can result in whiplash are:
- contact sports such as football, boxing, and karate
- horseback riding
- cycling accidents
- falls in which the head violently jerks backward
- car accidents
- physical abuse, such as being punched or shaken
- blows to the head with a heavy object
Most cases of whiplash don't require a trip to the doctor and can be easily treated at home.
Over the counter drugs, ice, and other home remedies are all adequate treatments that should take care of your injury.
However, if you start developing the symptoms listed below, you should see a doctor:
- Pain or stiffness in your neck that repeatedly comes and goes
- Unbearable neck pain
- Any pain, numbness, or tingling in your shoulders, arms, or legs
- Issues with your bladder or bowels
- Localized weakness in your arms or legs
When you see your doctor, they will ask you how the injury occurred, where your pain is, and if it's a dull, sharp, or shooting pain.
They're also likely to do a physical exam to check your range of motion and look for areas of tenderness.
If your doctor feels the need, they might order an x-ray to make sure your pain isn't leaked to another type of injury or disease like arthritis.
They could also order CT scans and MRIs that will allow your doctor to assess any damage or inflammation that has occurred in your soft tissues, spinal cord, or nerves.
How Whiplash Affects Your Body
Along with pain in your neck, there are many other symptoms you may develop related to your whiplash.
Whiplash isn't restrained to damaging just your neck area and can cause harm to places throughout your body.
The symptoms may develop after a few days and can last for several weeks.
The most common symptoms are:
- Blurred vision
- Constant weariness
- Concentration and memory issues
- Ringing in your ears
- Loss of sleep
- Bowel and bladder issues
- Headaches, especially at the base of the skull
- Chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, or head
Some of these symptoms are more serious and others and they all require a visit to the doctor.
It's important to be very aware of any changes to your body after and accident that results in whiplash.
Even things like bowel issues can be a result of your whiplash, and should be treated by a doctor.
Treating whiplash is relatively straightforward, even if you do have to visit the doctor.
Most of the time your doctor will just advise you to take an over the pain medication like Tylenol or aspirin.
If your pain is more severe, your doctor can prescribe a prescription painkiller or muscle relaxer to provide relief.
You may also need physical therapy if the injury is severe enough.
Applying heat or ice to your injury and practicing simple flexibility exercises in your neck can work wonders.
Be sure to use good posture and use relaxation techniques to keep your muscles from straining and aid in recovery.
In rare and extreme cases, your doctor may get you to wear a foam collar to keep your neck stable.
You shouldn't wear these more than three hours at a time and are only required for the first few days after your injury.
Don't Take It Lightly
As we've learned, a whiplash injury can cause damage to your neck, but it doesn't end there.
Whiplash, or neck strains, can affect many parts of your body, and you need to pay close attention to the symptoms.
So seeing a doctor that treats whiplash is typically just a precaution.
It's better to be safe than sorry.
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